WOBURN – Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Tewksbury Chief of Police Timothy Sheehan announced today that Hilda Gandia, 42, of Lawrence and Agustin Antonio Tejeda Ruis, 45, of Tewksbury have been arraigned today after being arrested in Tewksbury allegedly in possession of 30 kilograms of a substance, which tested positive as fentanyl in preliminary field testing.
“We are working aggressively to combat the opioid epidemic,” said District Attorney Ryan. “Early testing has revealed the presence of fentanyl a powerful synthetic opioid even more potent than heroin, making this seizure extremely significant given the deadly nature of this substance. This investigation has taken potentially millions of dollars worth of dangerous drugs off our streets.”
On Friday, January 8, 2016, as part of an ongoing investigation by State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, the Tewksbury Police Department, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration, investigators executed a search warrant on the residence allegedly used and controlled by Gandia and Ruis. During their search they allegedly found Ruis in the residence with several bricks of off-white powder suspected to be narcotics and approximately $21,000 in US currency in his immediate area. After receiving judicial authorization to expand the scope of the search, investigators found what is believed to be additional suspected narcotics totaling 30 kilograms; a field test of the substance indicated the presence of fentanyl. A kilo press, typically used to manufacture bricks of narcotics, a scale and packaging materials were also found. Large quantities of the suspected narcotics were found in Ruis’ bedroom and concealed inside hidden compartments located within two pieces of bedroom furniture.
“I am very proud of Tewksbury Police Department’s involvement in shutting down this significant drug trafficking operation in our community and I am very appreciative of the collaboration between my Department, the State Police, and the Drug Enforcement Administration during this investigation,” said Chief Sheehan. “The seizure of this massive quantity of opioids in Tewksbury validates the indiscriminate geographical nature and magnitude of this epidemic opioid crisis we are facing throughout Massachusetts and the northeast. This investigation exemplifies Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s multipronged response to this crisis which includes focusing on large scale drug distribution and those who profit from opioid addiction through multi-agency, intragovernmental investigations.”
“The State Police and our federal and local law enforcement partners continue to dismantle drug trafficking organizations and interdict supply routes, while at the same time we respond every day to, and record the excruciating toll of, overdose deaths. We are cognizant that the solution to the opioid problem must be pursued on multiple fronts, but we know with certainty that one essential component of that strategy is aggressive pursuit of drug traffickers, like the strong work that led to this weekend’s seizure,” said Colonel Richard D. McKeon, Superintendent, Massachusetts State Police.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s Office has seen an increase in overdoses including fatal overdoses due in part to an influx of heroin laced with fentanyl. Drug traffickers frequently mix fentanyl with heroin, without the knowledge of the buyer, putting users at a greater risk of overdose because of the increased potency of the drug, which can be fatal even in very low doses.
Both defendants were arraigned today in Lowell District Court.
Gandia was arraigned on charges of conspiracy to traffick heroin, conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. Judge Michael Brooks ordered the defendant held on $7.5 million surety/$750,000 cash bail, the next hearing date is February 9, 2016.
Ruis was arraigned on conspiracy to traffick heroin, conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, uttering a forged document, and identity fraud. Judge Michael Brooks ordered the defendant held on $10 million surety/$1 million cash bail, the next hearing date is February 9, 2016.
The prosecutor assigned to handle this arraignment is Assistant District Attorney Graham Van Epps.
Last year State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office responded to 185 overdose deaths in Middlesex County. The communities of Lowell and Tewksbury have been significantly affected; the two communities had 46 overdose deaths in 2015, an increase from 27 that occurred last year.
Preventing opioid addiction is one of the top priorities of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan. She has worked to pursue and support legislation aimed at synthetic drugs, like NBOMe and the fentanyl bill signed into law last November. As part of her effort to combat the opioid epidemic through a multi-pronged approach, she regularly hosts opioid task force meetings, which bring together law enforcement, healthcare professionals and addiction and recovery specialists to talk about innovative was to address this problem.
This is an open and ongoing investigation. The suspected narcotics have been sent to the State Police Drug lab for testing.